Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Carbon gain, allocation and storage in rhizomes in response to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and nutrient supply in a perennial C3 grass, Phalaris arundinacea

Hannah Kinmonth-Schultz A and Soo-Hyung Kim A B

A Center for Urban Horticulture, School of Forest Resources, College of the Environment, University of Washington, 3501 NE 41st Street, Box 354115, Seattle, WA 98195-4115, USA.

B Corresponding author. Email: soohkim@u.washington.edu

Functional Plant Biology 38(10) 797-807 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/FP11060
Submitted: 15 March 2011  Accepted: 6 June 2011   Published: 16 September 2011

Abstract

Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea L.) is a fast-growing, perennial, rhizomatous C3 grass considered as a model invasive species for its aggressive behaviour. The same traits make it a candidate for bioenergy feedstock. We tested the following hypotheses: (1) elevated atmospheric [CO2] and nutrient supply enhance photosynthetic carbon acquisition of this fructan-accumulating grass with little or no photosynthetic downregulation; (2) elevated [CO2] promotes carbon allocation to growth when nutrients are sufficient and to fructan storage in rhizomes when nutrients are low. Plants were grown at ambient or elevated (+320 μmol mol–1) [CO2], and fertilised using full or one-eighth strength modified Hoagland solution. We investigated leaf photosynthesis, whole-plant water use, biomass allocation, and nitrogen and carbon storage in rhizomes. Elevated [CO2] enhanced light-saturated net CO2 assimilation by 61%. It doubled whole-plant, stem and root biomass in summer. Plants grown in elevated [CO2] had a greater rate of CO2 assimilation at higher [CO2], indicating a shift in photosynthetic apparatus for enhanced carbon gain under elevated [CO2]. The majority of belowground biomass was allocated to rhizomes for storage rather than to roots in both seasons. In autumn, elevated [CO2] increased fructan concentration in rhizomes from 8.1 to 11.7% of biomass when nutrients were low (P = 0.023). Our results suggest that elevated [CO2] combined with sufficient nutrients is likely to enhance carbon gain and growth of P. arundinacea, and to increase its productivity and competitiveness in summer. Elevated [CO2] is likely to enhance long-term fructan storage in rhizomes, which may benefit overwintering and vegetative spread.

Additional keywords: CO2 enrichment, fructans, invasive plant, nonstructural carbohydrates, reed canary grass.


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